Pundit Without Borders

Tree, chainsaws and the Vieux Carré

In Pundit Without Borders

By George Schwarz
Jan. 1, 2018 at 7:48 a.m.

The recent removal of the stately trees on DeLeon Street and resulting controversy focused Victoria on the inherent conflict between our American view of property rights and the needs of a community. Marina Starleaf Riker’s story today reports the City Council will consider “rules protecting trees in historic districts.”

But, are protecting trees the only issue in the historic district?

I am too new to Victoria to know all the ins-and-outs of the evolution of the two historic districts, but my native New Orleans’ famous French Quarter immediately came to mind as I read about the kerfuffle.

As long as I remember, New Orleanians valued preserving the history, including the architecture and ambiance of the Vieux. Carré. The rules for construction and modification are overseen by the Vieux Carré Commission. This approach isn’t unique to the Crescent City. Galveston takes a similar approach. Along with preserving valuable assets of a community, these commissions help balance the rights of property owners with the notion of living in community. They also offer a more comprehensive approach to preserving the historic character of a city. Dealing with problems like this latest example — tree removal — as a piecemeal solution ultimately forces the City Council to micromanage property owners.

The notion that Victoria would create some overbearing bureaucracy with attendant costs might be a valid objection for a small community as ours. But, such an effort needn’t be a gargantuan bureaucracy. And whether or not such an effort moves forward might well be an indicator to the community of how important historic preservation is as a value to its citizens.

I hope it’s something the City Council will consider.



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